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Mumps Outbreak Tops 1,500 Cases

Feb 11, 2010 – 2:25 PM
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(Feb. 11) – A mumps outbreak among children in an Orthodox Jewish community has exceeded 1,500 cases and is still going strong, national health officials said today.

A total of 1,521 people have fallen ill since June, with 19 hospitalizations thus far. It's the largest mumps outbreak in the United States since 2006, when 6,500 college students contracted the illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already traced the outbreak back to the United Kingdom, where misguided fears over vaccinations have led to a resurgence of the illness. An 11-year-old New York boy contracted mumps on a trip and then returned to the United States, where he passed it along to several others at a summer camp for Orthodox Jewish boys in the Catskills.

Since June, the outbreak has spread to several nearby Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey. Most of the afflicted patients are teenage boys, probably because of the prevalence of boys-only schools and the location of the preliminary outbreak, the CDC report said.

Because the communities are so insular, fewer than 3 percent of cases have spread beyond the Orthodox population. Of those, most are occurring in people who have frequent contact with someone in the affected neighborhoods.

Even though the outbreaks aren't making much headway outside of particular regions, the CDC anticipates they'll continue to spread. In part, that's because of the large households common in Orthodox Jewish communities (a mean of 5.7 people, compared with the national average of 2.6), which facilitate contagion among family members.

Among those who've contracted mumps, 88 percent had received one measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, and 75 percent had received two, which is the recommended dosage. That's a high vaccination rate, but a double dose is only around 90 percent effective. That 10 percent means the vaccinations aren't always enough to prevent an outbreak.

Mumps usually seems like a standard virus, with symptoms including fever and fatigue. Its trademark symptom – swollen glands – doesn't always show up right away. And half of patients never exhibit noticeable symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In late January, the CDC started efforts to mitigate the ongoing outbreak by offering third MRR vaccinations to school-aged children. It could be weeks before health officials know whether the efforts have curbed rates of infection.
Filed under: Nation, World, Health, Top Stories
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